What Do You Say to Nelson Cruz?

Point of focus: missed catch or grand slam?

Posted Oct 31, 2011

I bought my Nelson Cruz jersey the night of Cruz's grand-slam-walk-off run against the Tigers. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington erupted as Cruz jogged the bases and rolled his batting helmet bowling style into a huddle of bouncing teammates. I raced to the t-shirt stand and ripped out my cash to have a physical memento of the best live sporting event experience in my life.

Before Game 6 - Ready to Win

Last Thursday, Game 6 of the World Series, torn between my Kinsler, Beltre and Cruz jerseys, I opted for Kinsler as my first layer and Cruz on top. I posted "Cruzing to the Title" on Facebook and headed to St. Louis. When Cruz's homer followed Beltre's in the seventh inning to go ahead 6-4, I ripped off my coat to show my strategic choice. Then came that ninth inning hit by David Freese. The almost catch. The almost title. The turncoat Rangers fans who called the miss an error. I snarled at the Rangers fans so quick to crucify my Cruz.

The next morning, in the wait for the Game 7, I thought a lot about Nelson Cruz. What do you say about the what-if miss of a lifetime to a man who did so much to bring his team to the big game? Cruz chalked up a record-tying 8 homeruns in the post season, brilliant catches, and stunning throws, only to miss a catch that would have clinched the title. Excusing the miss seems patronizing. The play wasn't an error, but it wasn't impossible either. Cruz had caught far harder balls than that one, so I don't think I'd take that approach.

Instead I'd remind Nellie that anyone of any substance has moments in life he'd roll back and change. Not everyone has his setback displayed before millions of people in an instant, but trust me, we all have them. These moments can be devastating. Some destroy careers, marriages, friendships and even lives, often with fewer people watching, but with far deeper impact than a World Series. Some people suffocate in these roll-back moments, others discover a new quality of self they never expected. What determines the future is the point of focus for the next step. Do you remember the missed ball time and again, or do you replay the grand slam?

I'm not suggesting Nelson blissfully ignore the missed catch. With these setbacks, there seems to be a process that takes time. Accept the moment. Think about what happened and what might be changed to get a different result. Practice that new approach. Visualize success. Try again. We all miss catches, and often the misses teach us far more than the catch. Winning is easy and often padded with luck. Reconstruction after loss requires a far more difficult dialectic: softness and steel, forgiveness of self and determination to forge a new result.

So Nellie, whether you know it or not, you've played an important life lesson on a world stage. I'm saving my Cruz jersey because I will remember those 8 home runs in the post season of 2011. The joy of the night of Game 2 of the ALCS will be forever encased for me in bright red with a blazing white 17. Grand slam. 50,000+ Rangers fans in frenzied delight. You might want to remember that one, Nellie. Put 10/10/11 on your replay list and swing for the fences.

For more information about Julie K Hersh or speaking engagements, check out her website www.struckbyliving.com